It begins: the papers, the lunchboxes, the assignments and lunch calendars. And so does your trauma of where to put it and how to track it.
Worry no more. I’ve got a few simple suggestions that can make a huge difference in your fabulous fall.
A functional kids’ counter. Whether it’s an actual counter or simply space on a baker’s rack, have a place set aside for your children’s most essential school items. On our kids’ counter we store binders, text books, and a supply tub with individual sections to hold markers, crayons, pencils, glue, and extra paper. And woe to the person who doesn’t put it back (though it always looks happily “used”). Create a system to hold finished papers and a space for tracking upcoming assignments. Try using a clipboard per child that holds individual papers with deadlines. Or a magazine holder with their name on a label. Currently, we use a stack of office file trays with each one labeled per child. When they arrive home, I first get the backpack, sift through it, chat about and post their new assignments, and place the old papers in the tray.
A one-stop family center. Need a place for chores, scouts, and more routine or once-in-awhile items and events? Use a large bulletin board (so many are fabulously decorative) and place it in the kitchen. Separate it into three vertical sections—family info, family mission and goals, and family chores. On ours the far left side has family projects, counsel from the stake president, and a yearly calendar of what’s key. The middle section has our family mission statement (“Work hard, pray hard, play hard”) and our family goals (that often remain boldly triumphant and unfulfilled, for weeks at a time, until we remember to reset them). The third section has chore envelopes (very fancy—a manila 8 x 11 envelope cut in half with their name on it). Inside goes scout info, Duty to God/Faith in God, For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, and anything else I need to find at the last minute.
A useful family calendar. This is our life. I write everything on it—grocery items, kids’ babysitting hours, projects, phone numbers, you name it. We use an age-old calendar frame that combines with a small cork board and hangs on the fridge (I’ve glued and stapled it so many times it’s pathetic but still can’t be parted with). On the cork section are the current to-dos (forms to sign, this week’s events, etc.). In this way I can glance at the calendar, look at the accompanying items, and remember what my brain refuses to keep. And my children know that if it’s not on the calendar, there’s no guarantee of a ride.
Real family meals. You’re groaning. For years cooking was the bane of my existence, until I truly realized the importance of it. Elder Dallin H. Oaks has said, “Family mealtimes have also been shown to be a strong bulwark against children’s smoking, drinking, or using drugs. There is inspired wisdom in this advice to parents: what your children really want for dinner is you.” Family dinner is ideal for creating connection. It’s when we can debrief and regroup (in the form of loud, chaotic, often obnoxious conversation).
Remember, it’s a family experience. [To read more about the importance of family dinners, check out our Advice for Life column on page 25 of LDS Living's Sept/Oct issue.] Enlist the children in sous-chef activities—cutting, buttering, and assembling. Assign clear chores—set, clear, clean up—and rotate them daily or weekly. Keep recipes quick and enjoyable. And encourage conversation around the table. Many people have a sharing system—one high or one low (or two highs), favorite part of the day, random questions, or following President Monson’s adage by asking, “Whom did you serve today?” Include current events or family topics, but just keep the conversation going and in a positive direction.
Organization can be simple if we keep it that way. Start with one tip, try it, tailor it to your family’s needs, then enjoy living it. You’ll feel happier with less stress and more fulfillment with your family rhythm.
Connie Sokol is a mother of six, presenter, and author of Faithful, Fit & Fabulous. Enjoy her blog and tips, and share your thoughts at 8basics.com.